Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved. The development model imposed on Tunisians – as well as on others in North Africa – is an extractivist model, one which seeks to plunder as much natural resources as quickly as possible with little regard for the sustainability of these efforts. In a neocolonial fashion, these resources, from oil to minerals to fish and trees, are then exported to world markets, enriching companies and stockholders while local communities see neither profit, nor positive change.
In Oum Laarayes, people from the international caravan had the opportunity to talk with local community representatives, activists and organisations, including activists from the unemployed movement in the region.
It might sound odd that there are unemployed people in these resource-rich regions, but the truth is that the export-oriented extractive sector does not create much wealth for local markets and, contrary to popular belief, does not create enough jobs to employ people.
Several issues were discussed – from the neocolonial nature of the mining to the urgency of the requests sought by social movements including jobs, better infrastructure and access to water among others. But employment, which came up repeatedly in almost every discussion, was a challenging topic. Many wondered whether it should be prioritised over other demands in the struggle for social justice.
Would demanding more jobs in the same plants that are causing such devastation, bring sustainable long-term solutions to the communities in the region? Wouldn’t working for these industries simply reinforce the dependence of the communities on a highly polluting model that costs them their health, sacrifices their environment and robs their resources?
Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved.Discussions also addressed the similarities of the struggles in the different countries in North Africa. Gafsa Mining Basin’s experience is comparable to the struggle of Imider, the rural Moroccan village where water levels in reservoirs, destined for agriculture and farming, drastically decreased because of the extensive water extraction of nearby silver mines, robbing the entire community of their rights for decent livelihoods.
The situation in Gafsa is also similar to the struggle of the unemployed movement in the oil and gas-rich Sahara in southern Algeria, a struggle against fossil capitalism, its logic of developing underdevelopment and accumulating capital by dispossessing communities.
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